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Charity: Half a billion people have no clean drinking water

Tens of millions of people across the world, mostly in rural areas, lack clean water, the charity WaterAid says. Mainly poor countries are affected, but some major economies also have a problem.

Hundreds of millions of people across the world are being forced to live without access to clean water for drinking, according to a new report by the international charity WaterAid released to mark World Water Day on Wednesday.

"Today 663 million people globally are still without clean water, and the vast majority of them - 522 million - live in rural areas," says the report, entitled "Wild Water."

Three African countries - Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo and Equatorial Guinea - top the list of nations worst affected by the problem, with more than two-thirds of people in rural areas in each lacking a provision of safe drinking water.

Papua New Guinea, Madagascar and Mozambique follow close behind, with the report also listing them as being among the 20 percent of nations most vulnerable to climate change and least ready to adapt.

But India, one of the world's fastest-growing economies, also has 63.4 million people in rural areas without access to clean water, the largest number of people in one country facing the problem, the report found. It said another major economy, China, has 43.7 million out of a population of 1.4 billion living without clean water in rural areas.

Climate change threat

The "Wild Water" report highlights the fact that climate change, with its accompanying extreme weather phenomena such as cyclones, floods and prolonged droughts, is likely to exacerbate water problems, not only worsening the plight of those already affected but also leaving millions more in a state of what it calls "severe water stress." It said it was predicted that more than 40 percent of the global population was likely to be living with poor provision of safe water by 2050.

Diseases such as cholera, blinding trachoma, malaria and dengue are expected to become more common and malnutrition more prevalent, as rural farming communities struggle to grow food and feed livestock amid climbing temperatures.

"Clean water is not a privilege - it is a basic human right - yet over half a billion rural people are still living without access to safe drinking water," Rosie Wheen, WaterAid Australia's chief executive, said in a statement.

The organization called for action by world governments to provide more money to water, sanitation and hygiene projects, and to help poor countries cope and adapt in the face of climate change.

Usbekistan Aralsee Symbolbild Klimawandel Dürre (picture-alliance/blickwinkel/G. Pohl)

Many large lakes around the world are drying up

tj/se (dpa, Reuters)

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